Tuesday, November 25, 2008

No 2 - Klok - Time Tracking App

Number 2 on "My Top 10 Most Useful Free Programs" is KLOK available from http://klok.mcgraphix.com

From the website:
Klok is a tool intended to be used by individuals, who have a need to track the time they spend on projects, tasks or anything else for that matter.

Klok is an Adobe Air app that will require a download from Adobe if you dont already have it. The app is very simple and easy to use way to track projects. It has made it to countless other Top Ten lists on the internet already but one more couldn't hurt.

I use Klok a bit differently than most. From what I have seen in other reviews Klok is used to track time against multiple projects. As I am a IT repair tech I use it to track time against clients. Each client has their own Klok "project". As I work for that particular client I track the time accordingly. At the end of the month I use KLOK to create a monthly time sheet that I use for billing.

(INSIDERS NOTE: Klok is working with Intuit to integrate with QuickBooks. They they are also working with integrating into other programs such as Jira, Freshbooks and a few others. Check the website for more details http://klok.mcgraphix.com)

Klok's current stable version is 1.0 but Version 1.5 is very close to being final.

I have been using the latest deveopment build for quite a while now and i have to say it is much better than version 1.0 despite a few minor bugs which should be worked out in the final release.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Network Mapped Drives and "Open With" prompt

Here is an interesting issue I came across today and thought I would share the solution in case anyone else has the same issues.

Upon double clicking on a mapped drive letter in "My Computer" or Windows exlporer I was getting the "Open With" prompt window.

As it turned out the pc had a virus that has since been removed by there was some left over registry entries hanging around

I make no guarantee that this will work for you but it may be worth checking.

Open up regedit and search for "MountPoints2". Under that key i found several entries that mached "\\servername\sharename\blablalba There was also a subkey_Autoplay and a Shell key. After deleting both keys it worked as normal.

NOTE: Always backup the registry before making any changes as some changes will render the pc unusable and in need of a reinstall of the OS.

MalwareBytes Saved me again

Just a quick post today. Malwarebytes' Anti-Malware has helped me clean another pc.
It is another free antispam \ antispyware program that has not made My Top 10 Most useful free prgrams list but I think I must give it an honorable mention.

The program can be downloaded from http://www.malwarebytes.org It is only a few megabytes in size and installed in a few minutes.

As like the other they do have paid versions that have some additional functionality but the free version works great at least for me.

This is another favorite of mine that is going on my USB key of repair tools.

Friday, November 14, 2008

No.3 - Zone Alarm Firewall

Number 3 on "My Top 10 Most Useful Free Programs" is Zone Alarm personal Firewall available from http://www.zonelabs.com

From the Zone Alarm website
ZoneAlarm Free Firewall blocks hackers from infiltrating your home PC by hiding your computer from unsolicited network traffic. By detecting and preventing intrusions, ZoneAlarm Free Firewall keeps your PC free from viruses that slow down performance, and spyware that steals your personal information, passwords, and financial data.

* • Essential firewall protection
* • Be invisible to others online
* • New interface makes it even easier—smaller size keeps it light

Anyone that browses the internet should know how insecure it really is. If your pc is connected to the internet chances are very good that someone has atleast attempted to fine out what network ports are open on your pc. Public places such as schools, libraries, airports, and coffee shops are known to be insecure when it comes to the internet. Here is an example... I teach night school at a Technical School. One night I brought my personal laptop into the school to demo some software to my class. Within 5 minutes my Zone Alarm had notified me that it has blocked over a dozen attempts to connect to my pc. Now I have no idea if it was a student in classroom down the hall or an automated script running somewhere that is looking for open ports but either way I was protected from the attack.

For those of you that dont think you need a firewall please read this article.

Zone Alarm comes in several versions. I prefer the free (Firewall Only) version as I have other programs that perform the same tasks as the programs that come with the paid zone alarm version.

The program installs much like any other windows based program and once completed will require a reboot to activate the services that would normally start when the pc starts.

Once it comes up the first time it will auto detect the most common programs and set up some default rules for general internet traffic like web and email.
For many people that is all you will need to do. For others, it has the ability to customize rules for different networks right down to the application permission to connect to the internet.

One other good feature about Zone Alarm is that it will popup an alert and ask for user input if it detects something that it does not have a rule for. You will then be able to allow or deny the connection for this time only or have it remember so you will not be asked again for the same item.

If your on the internet you need a firewall and there are many firewalls out there that I have tried but to me Zone Alarm is the most complete, not too difficult, free firewall for the home user. I have recommended it to many of my business clients.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

Monday, November 10, 2008

No.4 - Portable Apps

Number 4 on "My Top 10 Most Useful Free Programs" are Portable Apps available from http://portableapps.com

From the website:

A portable app is a computer program that you can carry around with you on a portable device and use on any Windows computer. When your USB flash drive, portable hard drive, iPod or other portable device is plugged in, you have access to your software and personal data just as you would on your own PC. And when you unplug the device, none of your personal data is left behind.

For anyone that frequently needs to use many computers and likes to keep their own data private, Portable Apps is for them. Being in IT support I am always on other users pcs. Very often I need a program that is not installed on that pc. There are many portable apps available from FTP, ssh , web browsers, Open Office apps, music and video players to other very useful utilities.

At any given time I have at least 2 USB flash drives on me and one always has my portable apps installed. There is a portable version of FileZilla that I use quit frequently.

There is a nice Portable apps Menu app that will show you all of your installed apps (similar to the windows start menu). It should run as soon as you plug in your usb key.

Here are two screen shots of portable apps. Notice that they look almost exactly like the non portable versions however these apps do not leave any data or files on the pc that you run it on.

File Zilla Portable

7Zip Portable

The developers of the individual apps are constantly updating the portable apps with bug fixes and new features so I usually check the site once a week or so to download any new versions of the apps I use.

There are also new apps that under development. You can searh their forums http://portableapps.com/forums to find out if one of your favorite apps can be made portable.

Friday, November 7, 2008

How to find which network ports are open on Windows

Here is another small tip that may help someone out.

To find which ports are open on your windows pc.

Open a command prompt then type

netstat -na

It will list the ports that are open and listening on your pc as well as any that have any that have an ESTABLISHED connection to them. (see the example image below).

All pcs need to have some ports open to communticate on a network. If there is one that you are not sure of, search for the port number on google to get more info.

No.5 - IZARC

Number 5 on "My Top 10 Most Useful Free Programs" is IZArc (Available at http://www.izarc.org/)

From their website "IZArc is the ultimate freeware archive utility supporting many archive formats like: 7-ZIP, A, ACE, ARC, ARJ, B64, BH, BIN, BZ2, BZA, C2D, CAB, CDI, CPIO, DEB, ENC, GCA, GZ, GZA, HA, IMG, ISO, JAR, LHA, LIB, LZH, MDF, MBF, MIM, NRG, PAK, PDI, PK3, RAR, RPM, TAR, TAZ, TBZ, TGZ, TZ, UUE, WAR, XXE, YZ1, Z, ZIP, ZOO"

I have found this app to be better than winzip or the built in compression tools in XP and Vista. I have not come across a compressed file that it has not been able to open yet. It also has the ability to encrypt and decrypt files.

The interface is extremely simple and easy to use with drag and drop functionality.
To create a new archive you can simple drag the files onto the apps window and click the Add button. IZarc will automatically create the zipped file for you.

To open an existing compressed file you simple double click on it.
IZArc also adds "right click" functionality to the windows explorer to make if easy to extract files from within compressed archives.

There is also a portable version available that will run from removable media such as USB keys and CDroms. Have a look at this version here http://www.izarc.org/izarc2go.html

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

No.6 - FileZilla FTP Client

Number 6 on "My Top 10 Most Useful Free Programs" is FileZilla FTP Client (Available at http://filezilla-project.org/)

FileZilla is a free FTP client. For those that do not know what that means, It is a program that allows you to transfer files between your pc and other computers on the internet. This comes in handy for those that create their own websites and need to send files to a web server.

The user interface is fairly simple.

Filezilla allow you to save multiple profiles that allow you to easily switch between servers you connect to.

On other feather I like about this software is the ability for it to connect using SFTP and FTPS. This is the secure method of transferring files over ftp. Think of it as HTTPS of FTP.

For those of you that like to take your programs with you on a USB key or other removable there is also a portable version available that work the same way.
You can download that version from Portableapps.com

And for those that would like to run their own FTP server there is a Server version available at the web site.